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Cities across Europe unite to demand tougher rules for Airbnb rentals

An alliance of 22 cities from across Europe urged the EU on Thursday to enact tougher rules on Airbnb and other short-term holiday rental platforms, accusing them of driving up property prices and squeezing out locals.

Cities across Europe unite to demand tougher rules for Airbnb rentals
Berlin. View of the Zionskirch church (C) in the districts of Mitte and prenzlauer Berg taken on March 3, 2020. AFP

Representatives from Paris, Barcelona, Florence, Berlin and other tourist hotspots met with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in Paris to denounce an “outdated” legal framework that prevents officials from cracking down on the web platforms.

The 22 cities are: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Bordeaux, Brussels, Cologne, Florence, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Krakow, London, Milan, Munich, Paris, Porto, Prague, Utrecht, Valencia, Vienna and Warsaw.

Airbnb, which dominates the home-sharing market, has increasingly clashed with municipalities trying to balance much-wanted tourism revenue against growing resentment from residents.

Several cities have imposed restrictions, in particular to combat illicit rentals that they say are siphoning off homes from the affordable housing market.

But officials say that without an EU framework, Airbnb can effectively operate with only minimal oversight, by claiming it is simply a platform to put people in touch with renters.

That stance was bolstered by a European Court of Justice ruling last December, which rejected a bid by Paris to force Airbnb to register as a traditional property rental firm.

“It is time for a new European regulatory approach that serves first and foremost the general interest, which is for us accessibility of housing and the liveability in our cities,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a statement.

The Eurocities alliance wants the EU to force platforms to share their rental data with local authorities as part of the Digital Services Act being prepared by Vestager's office.

They also want Airbnb and other platforms to be held liable when renters fail to abide by local rules, such as caps on the number of overnight stays per year or the required registration of rentals with local authorities.

“Better cooperation between platforms and public authorities will be a prerequisite for a proper enforcement of the Digital Services Act,” Vestager said in a statement after the meeting.

On Thursday, the company voiced supported for the creation of “a more coherent and efficient framework for digital service providers.”

“We are already working with several government and public authorities in Europe to share data that demonstrate the positive impacts of short-term vacation rentals,” it added.

 

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Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts

Catch the very tail-end of the wine season and autumn foliage in one of the lesser-explored corners of the Austrian capital: Mauer.

Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts
Beautiful views and cosy taverns await you on the edge of Vienna. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Wine-hiking is an autumn must-do in Austria, and although the official Wine Hiking Day (Weinwandertag) that usually draws crowds has been cancelled two years in a row during the pandemic, it’s possible to follow the routes through beautiful scenery and wine taverns on your own.

Mauer in the southwest of Vienna is one of the routes that is mostly frequented by locals.


The footpath takes you through scenic vineyards. Photo: Catherine Edwards

You can reach this part of the 23rd district using Vienna’s public transport, and you have a few options. From the Hietzing station on the U4 line, you can take the tramline 60 or bus 56A. The former will take you either to Mauer’s central square or you can get off earlier at Franz-Asenbauer-Gasse to start the hike. If it’s too early in the day for wine just yet, you could start your day at the small and charming Designo cafe (Geßlgasse 6).

Otherwise, the residential area itself doesn’t have much to see, but keep an eye out as you wander between the taverns later — there are some beautiful buildings.

To start the hike, head west along Franz-Asenbauer Gasse, which will take you up into the vineyards, growing some red wine and Vienna’s specialty Gemischter Satz or ‘field blend’, which as the name suggests is a mixture of different types of grapes.

Photo: Catherine Edwards

The paved road takes a left turn, but the hiking route follows a smaller path further upwards. Here you’ll have magnificent views over the whole of Vienna.

If you stick to the official hiking route (see a map from Weinwandern here) you can keep the whole route under 5 kilometres. But more adventurous types don’t need to feel limited.

You can also follow the Stadtwanderweg 6 route (see a map here) either in full, which will add on a hefty 13 kilometres, or just in part, and venture further into the Mauerwald. If you do this, one spot to aim for is the Schießstätte, a former hunting lodge offering hearty Austrian meals.

EXPLORE AUSTRIA

In any case, you should definitely take a small detour to see the Wotrubakirche, an example of brutalist architecture from the mid-1970s built on a site that was used as a barracks during the Second World War.

Not far from the church is the Pappelteich, a small pond that is not only an important habitat for local flora and fauna, but a popular picnic spot for hikers. Its only water supply is from the rain, and due to climate change the pond has almost dried out in recent years, prompting the city to take action to boost its water supply by adding a permanent pipe.


The church is made up of over 150 concrete blocks. Photo: Catherine Edwards

What you really come to Mauer for, though, are the Heuriger or Viennese wine taverns. 

The most well-known is Edlmoser (Maurer Lange Gasse 123) which has previously been named as the best in Vienna. Note that it’s not open all year so check the website, but in 2021 it should be open between November 5th and 21st, and is also serving the goose that is a popular feature on Viennese menus this time of year.

Tip for translating Heuriger opening times: look for the word ausg’steckt, which is used by those taverns which aren’t open year round. They will also often show that they’re open by attaching a bunch of green twigs to the sign or front door.


Buschenschank Grausenburger. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Also worth visiting are cosy Buschenschank Grausenburger (Maurer Lange Gasse 101a), Heuriger Wiltschko (Wittgensteinstrasse 143 — located near the start of the hiking route, this is a good place to begin your tour) and Heuriger Fuchs-Steinklammer (Jesuitensteig 28).

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